globalization and the impact of culture on brands


Building a brand and marketing across borders requires some preliminary market research. Small to mid-size businesses who do not have a large research staff on hand must still  be conscious of cultural differences and tweak their product branding and advertising accordingly in order to penetrate the market successfully.

Language barriers can be avoided quite readily by traditional professional translators whose job it is to be sure that the translation doesn’t inadvertently offend the target client. An example of this may be as simple as using the word ‘latte’ when referring to a mixture of espresso coffee and steamed/frothed milk but in Italy ‘latte’ is the word for milk.

Language, as in spelling is equally important as American English and almost every other English-speaking country differ. The use of the words ‘whilst’, ‘smashing’ and ‘chuffed’ are common in British English vocabulary and everyday speech but will tend to alienate American clients and of course the reverse is also true.

Much of the success of the impact from moving into unfamiliar markets relies on communication, sensitization regarding religion, customs and traditions and how to use humor, personalities and consumer consumption habits to the sellers’ advantage. While it is vital to adhere to the consistency and spirit of the company’s current brand value it is equally important to take a look at  cultural tendencies and how to keep with the company’s own voice while folding in some necessary changes to avoid product rejection.

Product rejection has happened on a large-scale in many instances. Large corporations believing that their super successful brand could be folded into a variety of countries and cultures with a seamless transition have had some rude awakenings.

Starbucks was rejected in Australia for not being original enough for consumers to change from local brands.

WalMart style – Everyday Low Prices campaign didn’t fare well in Japan where the population equated low prices with cheap quality.

Disneyland and McDonalds have also felt their fair share of consumer rejection in Europe for maintaining almost the exact blueprint as their wildly successful American model(s).

Knowing how to brand a product in an unfamiliar environment should include research of the country or region’s:

  • Celebrated holidays and statutory holidays. What importance do the days hold and how can the most leverage be made as far as sales and marketing?
  • Language of the majority and second language. English remains the largest second language in the world but that does not eliminate the need to cater to the first language in most countries.
  • Habits as far as alcohol consumption, smoking for example and including basic value system and beliefs and etiquette. This portion is important as to not offend the target market. Checking the competitions’ advertising strategies in print ads or billboards as well as local ads will  usually provide a general consistency.
  • Colors – What are traditionally accepted colors and how wide a scope will be accepted.
  • Local Competition – Consider the proverbial stepping on toes to be a deciding factor of whether the move will pay off on the company’s bottom line.  Aspire to be different enough not to upset the existing businesses and yet familiar enough to appeal to the masses.
  • Spending patterns. For example, as incomes rise in China, the Chinese are spending a significantly larger “share of wallet” on education, and significantly less on tobacco and alcohol. (source – A.T. Kearney)

Conclusion? Get to know the clientele in detailed measurement before venturing into new territories.

randy bowden –  t  | f | in | g+



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